Recently, I’ve found myself more and more drawn to podcasts. I have been spending upwards of 4 hours per day listening to podcasts between commuting on the train, running errands, and any other spare moments I can find! I’m really discovering the power of this medium—I believe that podcasts are a crucial part of the sustainability and ethical business discussions.
As Madeleine of the Wise Consumer podcast shares a bit later in the interview, she believes (and I agree!) that podcasts are a perfect platform for sharing personal conversations—they can be a rare opportunity for listeners to hear guests get vulnerable about their stories, struggles, businesses, projects, and biggest dreams.
(I was honored to be a guest on The Wise Consumer—I shared my story, and my take on topics like conscious consumerism and ethical fashion in this fun chat with Madeleine. You can check the episode out on iTunes, Google Play, or The Wise Consumer website.)
Madeleine certainly shares plenty of stories, so I wanted to get her story and discover exactly what led her on this journey to The Wise Consumer! Without further ado, meet Madeleine:
Can you tell us about your background and how it led to The Wise Consumer?
Ever since I can remember, I’ve had a passion for storytelling and a sense of curiosity that probed me to question everything. Raised in a bilingual/bicultural Franco-American household, my love for storytelling blossomed around the kitchen table (in my family mealtime is taken very seriously, we all sit down and break bread and drink wine for hours).
It was during these meals that I learned the power of storytelling. On one side of the Atlantic my French grandfather shared his stories as a Jewish teen during World War II being forced to go into hiding and change his last name. On the other side of the Atlantic in a house surrounded by corn fields, my American grandfather shared stories about growing up during the Great Depression, his “real-world Huck Finn education,” as he referred to it.
I was stuck between two cultures—accepted fully neither as French nor American. To make matters a bit more interesting, by the time I was 18, I had moved more than 13 times due to my father’s military career. Constantly being thrown into new environments, different cultures, and meeting new people, I got used to being the “new kid”. Every move was an adventure— new places to see, people to meet, and things to learn. I realized at an early age just how powerful storytelling could be, and figured, well, why not use it for something I’m passionate about? Sharing important stories—and over the years, that’s what I’ve done.
Most recently I worked as a Video Producer for the U.S. Navy which gave me the opportunity to research, write and produce numerous promotional videos for the Navy’s Energy Campaign. This campaign highlighted alternative energy-efficient initiatives and innovative projects developed by the Navy to help secure our nation’s energy future. It was during this time that I realized how I could combine my professional Department of Defense experience, love of storytelling, and passions for all things sustainable, cultural, and conservation. Ultimately, I decided to branch out on my own and thus, The Wise Consumer was born.
What first sparked your interest in conscious consumerism?
I think my interest in conscious consumerism first started while I was working on the US Navy’s energy security campaign. The more research I did, the more I realized how my actions, as well as my inactions, impacted our planet. That being said, I didn’t really become serious about what and how I was consuming until about a year and a half ago when I was diagnosed with an autoimmune condition. While it’s sad that it took something like that to really wake me up, I’m also grateful because it has changed my life for the better.
There’s no “cure” per-se to my condition but the more I studies and reports I read, the more it became apparent that what I was eating (processed foods, artificial ingredients, etc.) and what I was putting on my skin (cosmetic products which are often full harmful toxins and chemicals), were known to aggravate my condition.
It was at this point that I truly started paying attention to everything I was ingesting and lathering on my skin. Furthermore, this desire to further understand how what I was consuming ultimately expanded into other areas of my life—where I bought my clothes, the plastic waste I was producing, and even how I did my laundry. I spent hours researching fair trade, ethical, and all-natural brands and began shifting my daily habits. And…well, the rest is history.
What have you found to be the most difficult part of shopping responsibly?
I am a perfectionist at heart (work in progress over here). So, when I take something seriously, I go all the way. Meaning, when it comes to shopping responsibly, which I take seriously, I tend to spend a lot of time researching products & goods before I buy them such as finding out who made them, where they came from, what ingredients were used, and if they’re Fair Trade.
This is not necessarily a bad thing but it takes a lot of time. This is in part due to the fact that not all companies are forthcoming about how and where their products and goods are created. That being said, I will say that it’s becoming easier and easier to find brands that are transparent about the entirety of their supply chain, from sourcing materials to packaging, which has been really encouraging. It could be because I tend to seek them out, but I do find that more and more companies, from New York city, to Bismarck ND, to San Diego are carrying products that align with the values of most conscious consumers. My hope is that someday this becomes the norm and not the exception.
What do you think is the most rewarding part of shopping responsibly?
I realize that how and what you consume may not change the course of the world but I do think it makes a difference. I think the most rewarding part is knowing that I have the choice to shop, or not shop, when and how I want. No one can force me to buy from a company that doesn’t pay its workers fairly or eat food that’s full of artificial ingredients—it’s my decision. Basically, with every purchase I make, I vote with my dollar. Plus most of the brands I’ve come across are not only ethically creating products but are also giving back to their local communities or supporting an environmental cause in one way or another.
Sometimes, though, it’s just as rewarding to not shop and simply to reuse or repurpose products and goods that still have plenty of life left in them. I shop for new goods only when and if I need them. I am actually quite boring when it comes to shopping. I used to view it as a form or entertainment, something I would do on the weekends for fun (and trust me, I am not judging you if you love shopping—I get it!), I just personally don’t have that sense of satisfaction or pleasure from it anymore.
Why did you decide to start this podcast?
Well, a few reasons. First of all, I love podcasts. I listen to them when I travel, walk the dog, commute, etc. I love learning and podcasts allow me to learn while on the go, no matter where I am. But more importantly, I love podcasts, because I love people’s stories. While my background has mainly been in video producing, visual storytelling, I find that a personal conversation with someone tends to be more intimate—it’s imperfect, not scripted, and real.
Secondly, I wanted to share the personal stories of people using their businesses or organizations as forces for good with a greater audience. I wanted to share the stories of entrepreneurs who are making a positive difference with their products and goods, both socially and environmentally, with other consumers. I wanted to help raise awareness about ethical and sustainable brands, the issues they’re tackling, and the impact they’re making in a personal and engaging way.
I find that podcasting lends itself nicely to the kinds of topics I wanted to focus on, such as climate change, ethical fashion, and zero-waste living. I can always write about the facts and stats and the problems they’re solving, but in a blog, I can’t convey the passion behind their way as eloquently and in their own words. The vulnerability and honesty I can capture in a podcast interview is something I personally would have a hard time recreating on paper.
Which leads me to my last point, I’m slightly dyslexic, so writing isn’t my forte. Podcasting makes storytelling so much easier for me!
What are your goals for your podcast?
There are so many serious problems in our world today: climate change, poverty, child labor, the waste that we produce… the list just goes on! And, if you’re anything like me, sometimes these issues may feel overwhelming—you want to help, you just don’t know how or where to begin. So, my hope with the podcast is to bring you heartfelt conversations where entrepreneurs get a chance to share their views on all things related to social entrepreneurship—the courage and drive it takes to start, their frustrations, failures, and hardships, their personal journeys and, the passions that have led them to where they are today.
My hope is that by hearing and sharing the personal stories of these amazing individuals, my audience leaves inspired. Inspired to make changes in their own lives. Inspired to launch those ideas that have been nagging at them for years. Inspired to look for new products and lifestyle habits. My goal is to help them become wiser consumers and ultimately, more informed global citizens.
(Note: I realize, a lot of the issues I explore throughout the podcast and on my blog are “all-hands on deck” kind of issues—it will require collaboration between government, business and academia. In season 2 I’ll be bringing on a few scientists, professors, and policy experts to talk to us about some of these global issues).
How can readers find you online?
You can connect with me on online at www.thewiseconsumer.com
and on social media at the following:
Or email me here!